While the land has been parcelled up, the construction has not begun yet and it may not be too late to bring out about a reconsideration perhaps in concert with British meteorologists. Even if unsuccesful such an effort may prevent further encroachments. ..Read

A Letter From Walsh..

A letter From Nicola Walsh to Dr Lareef Zubair on "British high commission take over of meteorological observatory land in Colombo".View

NASTEC Summary

NASTEC strongly endorsed and reiterated the sentiments expressed by the signatories to the SL Meteorology, Oceanography and Hydrology Network appeal..Read...

SLASS Sammary

On behalf of the scientific community in Sri Lanka and world over, we appeal to the British High Commission to seek land elsewhere ..Read

Summary

British Embassy to take over Part of the Sri Lanka Dept. of Meteorology HQ Land

Systematic meteorological data collection in Sri Lanka was started by a British officer, Colonel Fyers of the Royal Engineers in 1852, at Colombo. It is at this site, also the headquarters of the Department of Meteorology, that the most careful meteorological measurements have been conducted in Sri Lanka and data since 1853 is available. It is also the only site from which radiosonde measurements are carried. In the last 50 years, many buildings has been erected at its periphery of this site such as buildings for the Ceylon Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research, the BMICH Conference Hall, the Chinese Embassy, the Australian Embassy and the British Embassy residences. Such urbanization of course could contaminate the measurements. Surface wind measurements and temperature measurements will be particularly affected as tall buildings are constructed.

Now the newest construction plan will not merely be on the periphery but will take over a third of the Meteorological Department land. For unpublicized reasons, the Sri Lankan government has agreed to provide the Department land to the British Embassy . Already, the land has been divided and instruments have been shifted. This move will cramp up the Department of Meteorology and preclude expansion in the future. One fears that in the usual style of Western Embassies in Third World countries, the embassy will erect very high walls around it. The ease with which the government has handed over the land is symptomatic of the lack of appreciation of environmental data gathering. Given the concern for sorting out the impacts of global warming and climate change, precise and long measurements are essential to carefully quantify the changes. Methods of adjusting for the effects of urbanization and of station changes in quantifying global warming and climate change are unreliable. Given all this, the integrity of a meteorological record which ranks as one of the finest in the tropics after Madras is at risk. While the land has been parcelled up, the construction has not begun yet and it may not be too late to bring out about a reconsideration perhaps in concert with British meteorologists. Even if unsuccesful such an effort may prevent further encroachments.

The SLMOHN initiated a campaign which led to a petition by both Sri Lankan and overseas Scientists, to the awareness raising among government officials of the importance of climatic data, to the issuance of protests by the key Sri Lankan Science Agencies (SLAAS, NASTEC), a petition to the Ombudsman by the Environmental Foundation for Law and a review by the Auditor General. This page collects these materials together

Climate Change, National Security and the British High Commission

Systematic meteorological data collection in Sri Lanka was started by a British officer, Colonel Fyers of the Royal Engineers in 1852, at Colombo. It is at this site, also the headquarters of the Department of Meteorology, that the most careful meteorological measurements have been conducted in Sri Lanka and data since 1853 is available. It is also the only site from which radiosonde measurements are carried. In the last 50 years, many buildings has been erected at its periphery of this site such as buildings for the Ceylon Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research, the BMICH Conference Hall, the Chinese Embassy, the Australian Embassy and the British Embassy residences. Such urbanization of course could contaminate the measurements. Surface wind measurements and temperature measurements will be particularly affected as tall buildings are constructed

Now the newest construction plan will not merely be on the periphery but will take over a third of the Meteorological Department land. For unpublicized reasons, the Sri Lankan government has agreed to provide the Department land to the British Embassy . Already, the land has been divided and instruments have been shifted. This move will cramp up the Department of Meteorology and preclude expansion in the future. One fears that in the usual style of Western Embassies in Third World countries, the embassy will erect very high walls around it.

The ease with which the government has handed over the land is symptomatic of the lack of appreciation of environmental data gathering. Given the concern for sorting out the impacts of global warming and climate change, precise and long measurements are essential to carefully quantifHanding over the land, will also preclude the expansion of the Department so that it can cater to the emerging demands for weather and climate services. We also know that it will be damaging to move this station as the impact of relocation on the observations cannot be identified easily. It is important to maintain continuity of data records. y the changes. Methods of adjusting for the effects of urbanization and of station changes in quantifying global warming and climate change are unreliable. Given all this, the integrity of a meteorological record which ranks as one of the finest in the tropics after Madras is at risk.

 

SLMOHN News From June 2002

Appeal to Stop the handover of the Land to the British Embassy.

We are writing to ask for your signature for an open letter to request a reconsideration of the decision by the last government to handover a good portion of the Department of Meteorology premises in Colombo to expand the British High Commission Residences.

Such an act arises from a real lack of appreciation of the value of meteorological data in some circles and we, as researchers, are the only ones who have the ability and perhaps the responsibility to point out the damage that will be done by a) compromising on the data quality by cramping up the meteorological observations and by the impact of new big buildings in close proximity to the instruments. b) it will also diminish the capacity of the Meteorological Department to expand in the future. Particularly in an era in which global warming has become such an important issue, the long data record in Colombo becomes extremely valuable even from a global standpoint and one needs to protect its integrity for the future from urbanization in general and large constructions close by.

Hence, we write to you as a researcher or potential user of meteorological data to add your support to an open letter that we hope to circulate it to govt officials, to Royal Meteorological Society and to the public. Even if this letter is unsuccessful, it will be useful to highlight the value of meteorological data so that the government will be cautious about future encroachments and also support meteorological operations.

Your support will considerably enhance the power of this appeal. If you are able to add your name please indicate the manner in which your name and institutional affiliation should appear by email to slmon_news@hotmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

Lareef Zubair on behalf of SLMOHN

Letter from Prof. Manfred Domroes:

Thank you very much for sending the NEWS concerning the handover of a good portion of the Department of Meteorology premises in Colombo to expand the British High Commission Residences.

I am really shocked about the development that has already happened and that is intended to take place in future. Meteorological observations in Sri Lanka are among the eldest available in the world, with uninterrupted series of data available which are of immense value to the whole globe for climate change studies which effect the whole mankind.

I strongly request the authorities concerned in Sri Lanka to maintain the status of meteorological and climatic measurements in Colombo without any disturbance.

During the past 35 years I have often and regularly consulted the Department of Meteorology in order to achieve excellent observations. The quality of data is excellent and must be maintained in future. Reading that the measurements are already dislocated from the present site, I am deeply concerned about the future quality of data and their comparability with the past long-series data.

I support all efforts withdrawing the plans to handover the Department of Meteorology lands and to enhance support for environmental data gathering in general.

Prof. Dr.Dr.h.c. Manfred Domroes
Senior Professor in Geography and Climatology, Mainz University, Germany

SLMOHN News From August 2002

Sri Lanka and Britain Violate Legal Obligations under United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

The handover of the Meteorological Department Lands in Colombo to the British High Commission in a manner detrimental to the maintenance of international standards for climate observations is in contravention of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that both Sri Lanka and United Kingdom have signed.

Sri Lanka signed the UNFCC convention on June 10, 1992, ratified it on November 23, 1993 and came into force on March 21, 1994. Responsible Authority: Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forestry.

United Kingdom signed the UNFCC convention on June 12, 1992, ratified it on August 12, 1993 and came into force on March 21, 1994. Responsible Authority: Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The relevant clauses of this convention states that:

Article 4 (g)....Promote and cooperate in scientific, technological, technical, socio-economic and other research, systematic observation and development of data archives related to the climate system and intended to further the understanding and to reduce or eliminate the remaining uncertainties regarding the causes, effects, magnitude and timing of climate change and the economic and social consequences of various response strategies in carrying out their commitments under Article 4, paragraph 1(g), the Parties shall: (a)....Support and further develop, as appropriate, international and intergovernmental programmes and networks or organizations aimed at defining, conducting, assessing and financing research, data collection and systematic observation, taking into account the need to minimize duplication of effort;

(b)....Support international and intergovernmental efforts to strengthen systematic observation and national scientific and technical research capacities and capabilities, particularly in developing countries and to promote access to, and the exchange of data and analyses thereof obtained from areas beyond national jurisdiction;

Former-Minister of Science says Cabinet was bypassed in the handover of Meteorological Department Land: Raises Questions Raised About Payouts

From Daily Mirror bylined Damitha Hettiararchi

Former Science and Technology Ministers, Batty Weerakoon and Prof. Lesley Gunewardhana maintained that they, during their term as ministers, did not give permission or present a cabinet paper to sell or hand over a portion of Department's land.

An earlier request by the British High Commission for a portion of land from the Meteorology Department premises as far as 1996/97 was also turned down.

"Dr.Bernard Zoysa refused to hand over or to sell the land to anyone as he felt that it would interfere with the work of the Department. The Foreign Minister and the British High Commissioner too made a request to me but I refused to sell any part of the Met. Department Land," Former Minister, Batty Weerakoon said

.

However, nearly one year after the initial request, the Secretary to the Ministry of Science and Technology informed Mr. Weerakoon that the Foreign Affairs Ministry had requested him in a letter to hand over two acres from the Department land to the British High Commission.

"I asked the secretary to reply that there could be no such handover as it would disturb and interrupt the research," he said, adding that it was the last he heard of the deal.

But today, the British High Commission has started the initial structure of the planned building. Mr. Weerakoon questions. How? and "If the required cabinet permission was not given to the transaction, who by passed the cabinet and what happened to the money which changed hands?"

Although the decision was taken nearly one year ago under the PA regime, the present UNF government too has failed to protest the sale and the resultant relocation that disrupts the maintained records of one of Asia's best meteorological centres.

Takeover by the British High Commission will lead to violations of WMO Standards for Meteorological Observatories

The Department of Meterology in its website states that it was enacted in Parliament to provide all meteorological and climatological information nationally, in accordance with the WMO and ICAO regulations".

But consider the WMO standards as codified in "The WMO Guide to Meteorological Instruments and Methods of Observation", (WMO No. 8), 6th Edition, Geneva, 1996.

1.1-3

(a) Outdoor instruments should be installed on a level piece of ground,

(b) There should be no steeply sloping ground in the vicinity

(c) The site should be well away from trees, buildings, walls or other such obstructions.

(h) The position used for observing cloud and visibility should be as open as possible and command the widest possible view of the sky and the surrounding country.

(i) Night observations of cloud and visibility are best made from a site unaffected by extraneous lighting.

It is doubtful that all of these standards for station locations can be maintained.

In addition according to the USEPA, the instruments should be located at least 30 meters away from paved areas. However, now the instruments are being moved from a good location to a place in proximity to one of Colombo's main roads, new Department Buildings. In addition, the construction of a new Office, Barrier Walls and additional lighting for the Embassy will alter the measurements. A crucial question is the layout and architecture of the High Commission offices. But all that is secret.

Britain Refuses to Review the Land Take Over

Nicola Walsh, Desk Officer for South Asia, Foreign and Commonwealth Office wrote on behalf of the British Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary as "You suggest that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office review the case of the apparent takeover of the Meteorological Observatory Land in Colombo by the British High Commission, but as the land was sold by the Sri Lankan government we do not consider that it would be appropriate to do so. I understand that the sale has not been completed but should you wish any further information, I suggest you contact the Chief of Protocol at the ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Maduwagedera."

SLMOHN News From April 2003

Update Meteorological Department Land Take Over By the British High Commission

The action of this network (and in particular 30 members who signed the petition) over the take over of the land still goes on. The campaign has managed to publicize the disregard of environmental data in Sri Lanka and has brought strong statements by NASTEC, SLAAS, EFL and several climate scientists with significant coverage in the press. In addition, the Ombudsman has investigated the matter and inquiries have been requested by both the President's Office and Prime Minister's Office as to the utter disregard of both government rules and scientific opinion. At the very least, this campaign should prevent the further acquisition of the remaining part of the Observatory and has sensitized all concerned regarding the pivotal nature of environmental data. Further action is planned.

 

SLMOHN News From August 2003

Update:

The action of this network (and in particular 30 members who signed the petition) over the take over of the land still goes on. The campaign has managed to publicize the disregard of environmental data in Sri Lanka and has brought strong statements by NASTEC, SLAAS, EFL and several climate scientists with significant coverage in the press. In addition, the Ombudsman has investigated the matter and inquiries have been requested by both the President's Office and Prime Minister's Office as to the utter disregard of both government rules and scientific opinion. At the very least, this campaign should prevent the further acquisition of the remaining part of the Observatory and has sensitized all concerned regarding the pivotal nature of environmental data. The following further action is planned.

 

SLMOHN News From February 2004

The action of this network over the take over of the land still goes on. The campaign has managed to publicize the disregard of environmental data in Sri Lanka and has brought strong statements by NASTEC, SLAAS, EFL and several climate scientists with significant coverage in the press. In addition, the Ombudsman has investigated the matter and inquiries have been requested by both the President's Office and Prime Ministeanr's Office. This campaign should prevent the further acquisition of the remaining part of the Observatory and has sensitized all concerned regarding the pivotal nature of environmental data. An article on the land take over was published by TIEMPO from the University of East Anglia in September 2003 -, which is a newsmagazine that is widely distributed in the Climate Change Community. A follow up article on the campaign was published in the Island and the Daily Mirror in Sri Lanka.

SLMOHN News From June 2004

The action of this network over the take over of the land still goes on. The campaign has managed to publicize the disregard of environmental data in Sri Lanka and has brought strong statements by NASTEC, SLAAS, EFL and several climate scientists with significant coverage in the press. In addition, the Ombudsman has investigated the matter and inquiries have been requested by both the President's Office and Prime Minister's Office. This campaign should at least prevent further acquisition of the remaining part of the Observatory and the construction of large structures in the acquired land. It has sensitized all concerned regarding the pivotal nature of environmental data.

Tiempo Climate Newswatch

Lareef Zubair suggests that if vulnerable communities are empowered to cope with present-day climate change then the lessons learned can be utilized for longer-term adaptation. The author is an Associate Research Scientist at the International Research Institute for Climate Prediction in New York, United States, and a Principal Scientist in the Natural Resources Management Services, Polgolla, Sri Lanka. He is also the founder and coordinator of the Sri Lanka Meteorology, Oceanography and Hydrology Network.

There is an immediate and compelling need for climate change information, particularly on the time scale of months to upcoming years. Officials and decision makers in national ministries, for example, plan months and years ahead rather than for decades and centuries. It is the next few years that are of concern to these people.

The demand for present-day climate change information from vulnerable communities is increasing. In Sri Lanka, for example, at a training programme on climate change in 2002, the Secretary of the Sri Lanka Ministry of Plantations urged scientists to develop climate information. He stressed that this information was needed immediately in order to aid drought-related agricultural plantation management for the upcoming seasons and years.

The demand for present-day climate change information from vulnerable communities is increasing. In Sri Lanka, for example, at a training programme on climate change in 2002, the Secretary of the Sri Lanka Ministry of Plantations urged scientists to develop climate information. He stressed that this information was needed immediately in order toaid drought-related agricultural plantation management for the upcoming seasons and years.

Read More...

Summary of the Auditor Generals report

Auditor-General has raised questions about the legitimacy of the land take over of the Sri Lanka Department of Meteorology. In 1987, 2.5 acres of the Colombo Meteorological Observatory was given to the Chinese Embassy and in 2001, 2 acres of land has been sold to the British High Commission for a 1.8 million sterling pounds (Rs. 213,912,000).

Auditor General queries as to how this land was handed over as meteorological observations are compromised as per international guidelines such as from World Meteorological Organization. They have also queried (a) the lack of cabinet approval for the sale, (b) whether the funds were actually received by the proper authority, (c) technical certification that meteorological data was not compromised and (d) the lack of documentation regarding any buildings that is planned by the British on this land as it can interfere with the data acquisition.

The views expressed by the Technical and Trade Unions of Scientists had been ignored when the transaction was carried out. The Auditor General’s Department has faulted this sale for being carried out because of (a) the report of the Director of Meteorology dated 12.12.2000 and on 01.03.2003 that stated that meteorological observations need this expanse of land (c) the letter on 08.08.2000 from the Secretary of the Ministry of Science and Technology against the sale of this land (d) the opposition of the Meteorological Officers Association and a cross section of scientists in Sri Lanka and overseas.

NASTEC Summary

The National Science and Technology Commission (NASTEC) the Apex Body of Science in Sri Lanka has strongly endorsed and reiterated the sentiments expressed by the signatories to the Sri Lanka Meteorology, Oceanography and Hydrology Network appeal. This commission includes in its ranks former Secretary General of UNCTAD, ex-cabinet secretaries, the Presidential Science Adviser, ex-Science Adviser to the Minister of Science, an Emeritus Professor of Education and one of Microbiology and the former Director of the Ceylon Institute for Scientific Industrial Research in Sri Lanka. NASTEC has written to the Minister of Economic Reform, Science and Technology that "Some time ago it was reported that the land adjoining the Department of Meteorology would be handed over to the British High Commission for construction of office buildings. The protests made by scientists of the Department on acceptable technical grounds were not heeded.

Now, a group of eminent scientists and engineers have requested NASTEC to forward a renewed appeal to the Government, to prevent the use of this land by the High Commission for building purposes. The National Science and Technology Commission having reviewed the grounds for the renewed appeal, completely endorses the stand that, the decision to invest the land in the UK be reversed for a number of significant technical reasons. The Commission which has as its mandate an advisory role to Government on matters concerned with Science and Technology, strongly reiterates the position taken up by the scientists."

SLASS Summary

The Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science (SLAAS) which is the apex science association in Sri Lanka deliberated on the sale of the Department of Meteorology land and issued a press release:

`ECSri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science joins several others in voicing its protest on the sale of part of the Meteorology Department land to the British High Commission to construct a building to house their offices. These data have been valuable not only for Sri Lanka but also for the entire South and South Asia. The fact that there is no land mass below Sri Lanka down to the Antarctica, makes meteorological data from Sri Lanka all the more valuable even on a global scale.

Recently, the British High Commission has been agitating for part of the land from the east end, which was adjoining the residence of the British High Commissioner. The Department has been resisting this move initially, but when the order came again from the highest authority, the government protocol prevented the Department officials from making any objections. We understand that various officials from other related organizations such as the Ministry of Science and Technology, the national Science and Technology Commission and the Treasury have expressed their concerns on this transaction, but there was nothing that they could do when the order came from higher authorities.

On behalf of the scientific community in Sri Lanka and world over, we appeal to the British High Commission to seek land elsewhere without disrupting a national meteorology system having linkage to international system of data gathering. We hope that he will be gracious enough to part with this land, without giving priority for the convenience of having the HC offices adjoining his residence.